7 September 2000


7 September 2000

Press Briefing



On this, the second day of the historic United Nations Millennium Summit, 70 speakers were scheduled to address the plenary, Therese Gastaut, Spokeswomen for the Co-Chairs of the Summit, told correspondents at today's noon briefing. That number included 22 heads of State, 8 Heads of government and 10 other leaders of delegations, all scheduled to speak at the morning session presided over by Summit Co-Chairman President Sam Nujoma of Namibia.

Summit Co-Chairperson Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, addressed the gathering of world leaders in her capacity as head of State, Ms. Gastaut said. President Halonen also chaired this afternoon' s plenary, which featured 13 heads of State and 9 heads of government.

Ms. Gastaut went on to say that yesterday 34 speakers addressed the Summit in the morning and 29 in the afternoon. That number included 38 heads of State, 17 heads of government and 3 vice-presidents. Although some had strayed slightly and others shortened their speeches, on the whole, speakers had kept their statements within the five-minute limit they had been given. For those interested in the math, Ms. Gastaut said that yesterday her office had calculated that the average length of speeches had been seven minutes. "I think that's not bad", she added.

A correspondent asked if, in addition to the warning light, there had been other ways that speakers were warned or reprimanded when they went over the five- minute time limit. "You can always cover the light with a handkerchief", Ms. Gastaut said. Only one of the Co-Chairs could reprimand the speakers, but the approach had been basically an appeal to fair play and moral persuasion. She reiterated that the seven-minute average maintained by the speakers had not been bad.

Turning to other Summit events, Ms. Gastaut said that the first of four round tables for heads of State and government had been held yesterday afternoon. Each round table was to be chaired by a head of State from a different region and the first, had been chaired by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore. The Secretary-General also attended this informal and interactive discussion which mostly centred on globalization. Ms. Gastaut said that at his press briefing following those talks, Mr. Chok Tong had reported that many of the national leaders present had expressed concern about the difficulties of managing the phenomenon of globalization.

She went on to say that the Prime Minister had also noted that the round- table format -- a first for the United Nations -- offered the unique opportunity for world leaders to exchange views candidly, away from the camera. Mr. Chok Tong said that the Secretary-General had assured the gathering that the United Nations took these discussions very seriously, and those proposal which were implementable would be studied carefully and formulated into a plan of action.

There were two round tables scheduled for today, Ms. Gastaut said. President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland chaired the morning meeting. President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela was expected to chair this afternoon's round table.

Gastaut Briefing - 2 - 7 September 2000

And press briefings were set to follow each meeting, at 1:15 p.m., and at 6:15 p.m., respectively.

Regarding treaty ratification, Ms. Gastaut said that the signature of treaties by countries was continuing today. She drew correspondents’ attention to the fact that at 4:20 this afternoon, Guinea was scheduled to ratify the Protocol to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. If that signing were to occur, it would be quite a historical event, she added, as it would mean that the Protocol would enter into force, thus allowing individuals to file compliance with the United Nations Committee that monitored compliance with the Convention.

She went on to highlight three other very important events that would be occurring on the occasion of the Millennium Summit. The first was the Security Council meeting scheduled for this afternoon at the level of head of State and government. Indeed, all 15 Members would be represented at that level with the exception of Malaysia, which would be represented by its Foreign Minister. The last time a Council meeting had been held at a similar level was in 1992. President Alpha Oumar Konare, who holds the Council Presidency for the month of September, would chair today's meeting. The Secretary-General will participate in this historic event and the Summit Co-Chairs will also be in attendance.

Ms. Gastaut said that the meeting would focus on ensuring an effective role for the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security, particularly in Africa. A draft resolution of a declaration on that issue would be available. As the meeting was "public", President Konare would not hold a press conference that had been scheduled for 4 p.m., today. She invited correspondents to go to the Council Chamber and follow the proceedings.

The second important event Ms. Gastaut highlighted was the Interactive Forum on Girls’ Education organized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) which was set for this afternoon. The Forum was to be opened by Nane Annan and chaired by the Executive-Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy.

Lastly, she drew correspondent's attention to the first-ever meeting of the Bureau of the Economic and Social Council at the head of State level. That meeting was scheduled to take place tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., at the United Nations Plaza Hotel. A press conference was scheduled for 8:45 a.m. The heads of State of the five countries of the Bureau would participate. The Bureau President was Indonesia and therefore President Abdurrahman Wahid would preside over this meeting. The four other members of the Bureau would be the Presidents of Austria, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Costa Rica.

Finally, Ms. Gastaut said that the caption of the "group photo" of world leaders participating in the Millennium Summit was now available.

Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, wondered if any unauthorized persons had sneaked into the photo session. "Why don't you take a look at the caption", Ms. Gastaut said, "you might see that maybe two or three did." "It happens every time", the Spokesman replied.

A correspondent asked how the positioning for the photo session had been organized and wondered how unauthorized persons were able to get into the picture? He asked for the identity of the interlopers.

Ms. Gastaut said that the Secretary-General was on the front row, with Summit Co-Chair President Tarja Halonen of Finland on his right and the other Co- Chair, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia, on his left. Next to them were the five permanent members of the Security Council, three on one side and two on the other. "The rest is a mixture", she said. The presence in the photo of some dignitaries who were not intended to be part of it might have been the result of some confusion within delegations regarding exactly who should be in the picture.

Ms. Gastaut went on to say that the Secretariat had tried to make the picture-taking process as orderly as possible: there would be only one representative per country. That representative could be the head of State, head of Government or head of delegation. The only exceptions had been Namibia and Finland, whose Presidents were included in the photograph as Co-Chairs of the Summit. Therefore, the Foreign Ministers of those respective countries were also included in the picture.

Asked if she saw the apparent handshake between President Clinton of the United States and President Fidel Castro of Cuba on the way into the group photo, Ms. Gastaut said that she had not been there and had not heard of the handshake.

A correspondent asked if the Secretary-General's Office had initiated the change in the speaking order for the Iranian President at the Summit’s morning session yesterday? Ms. Gastaut referred to her statement on this issue yesterday saying that the change had been requested by Iran and had been accepted by the other members on the speaker's list. It had been a mutual agreement by the speakers and was accepted by the Co-Chairs.

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For information media. Not an official record.